Foreign tourists traveling to Germany often skip over Frankfurt and Cologne in favor of the more famous Berlin and Bavaria, but this region has many sites to offer visitors. If you have visiting UNESCO sites around the world as part of your bucket list, in the area surrounding Frankfurt and Cologne, there are ten sites that UNESCO has added to their World Heritage Site list, which means that these sites have special cultural or physical significance that they want to preserve.
Here are ten UNESCO World Heritage sites in Germany near the cities of Frankfurt and Cologne.
1. Cologne Cathedral
This masterpiece of Gothic architecture is famous for being the most visited landmark in German with an average of 20,000 visitors a day. It is now the seat of the Archbishop of Cologne. Workers began building it in 1248, but there were long stops in construction, so it wasn’t actually finished till 1880, meaning it took seven centuries to build this cathedral.
2. Castles of Augustusburg and Falkenlust at Bruhl
The castle of Augustusburg and the smaller palace of Falkenlust were built in the 18th century and are fantastic examples of early Rococo architecture. Between the two buildings are the lovely gardens of the Schlosspark. Augustusburg was the home of members of the ruling Wittelsbach family. Falkenlust was designed in the style of a hunting lodge with a marine grotto in the chapel.
3. Lorsch Abbey
The abbey was founded all the way back in 764. It is one of the rare buildings to have survived from the medieval Carolingian era, although over the centuries much of the abbey has fallen into ruin through fire or war. From this abbey came the Lorscher Codex, which is one of the most important documents of early Germany medieval history.
4. Messel Pit Fossil Site
The pit began as a mining quarry and also became a landfill before UNESCO and other stepped in. This is the only UNESCO site on the list exclusively for fossils. The pit is the best fossil site for understanding the Palaeogene period, during which the first modern mammals emerged. Fossils found here are remarkably well preserved, with full skeletons and sometimes even fur and stomach contents.
5. Maulbronn Monastery Complex
This monastery, founded in 1147, is the best preserved Cistercian monastery complex in Europe. Its architecture is a mix of Romanesque and Gothic and the monastery’s look majorly helped the spread of Gothic architecture. It has a remarkably innovative and elaborate water management system for the time with a network of drains, reservoirs, and irrigation channels.
6. Speyer Cathedral
Founded in 1030, the Speyer Cathedral is considered one of the most important examples of Romanesque architecture from the time when Europe was ruled by the Holy Roman Empire. For 300 years, German emperors were buried here. The cathedral features a basilica with four towers and two domes. It was made to compete with the Abbey of Cluny, which has now been destroyed.
7. Wurzburg Residenz Palace and Gardens
This palace was built in the 1700s for a pair of German brothers, who were the prince-bishops of Wurzburg. The magnificent Baroque palace was bombed during World War II and nearly all of the insides were destroyed. Between 1945 and 1987, the building’s interiors were reconstructed to the tune of 20 million euros.
8. Bamberg Old Town
The town was built on seven hills and became an important link to the Slav peoples. Henry II, the King of Bavaria starting in 1007, intended for the town to be a second Rome and tried to make it a center of power. The old town is made of three sections, which are the island town, the market gardener’s town, and the episcopal town.
9. Aachen Cathedral
Charlemagne ordered the start of construction on this cathedral in 796 and later was buried here. Its chapel has a Carolingian octagonal basilica that was later added onto during the Middle Ages with Gothic additions. Its treasury has come of the most important religious artifacts in Europe.
10. Germany’s Ancient Beech Forest
This forest is a rare example of an unspoiled beech forest that represents the ongoing development of ecosystems without human involvement. Due to its inaccessibility and later its protected status, the forest remains almost entirely untouched by humans.